August 2, 2005

' How Does it Get into My Imagination?' : Elementary School Children's Intertextual and Gendered Storylines, by Elizabeth Yeoman

Today, I read an extraordinary article called “ ‘ How Does it Get into my Imagination?’: Elementary School Children’s intertextual knowledge and gendered storylines” by Elizabeth Yeoman. Elizabeth Yeoman is a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland who also teaches women studies, focusing on culture, language difference, postmodern, postcolonial, and feminist studies ranging from motherhood to family life(1). Elizabeth also wrote other interesting article beside this one, such as a review essay for the article, Transforming the Culture of Schools: Yup'ik Eskimo Examples, a book review for Single Mothers and their Children: Disposal, Punishment and Survival in Australia which was written by S. Swain with R. Howe, a article called, The other within the self: Black daughter, white mother and the narrative construction of racial identity and other interesting articles.
Elizabeth’s article is related to the article, “ Ella Evolving: Cinderella Stories and the Construction of Gender Appropriate Behavior” by Linda T. Parsons because these two articles discussed about how fairy tales portrayed gender roles in children and the effect it have on them. However, there are also differences in these two articles. For example, Linda’s article is written from adult’s perspective of the influence of fairy tales in gender roles, focusing mostly on the sets roles, where there is no exception of changing those gender roles. Conversely, Elizabeth’s article is written from looking at the children’s perspective of fairy tales. Her article used a lot data from case study of children’s response to stories to examine how intertextual knowledge contributes to their understanding of what it means to be male or female (pg.427). She focus on having students rewrite the fairy tales that they read from their own experience or what they see from other sources such as videos, books, and picture, to examine their new stories and to if there is any changes in gender roles. Her article examines how the conversations and writings of the children who participated in the study revealed aspects of their shareable imaginative world. Her article also inform about how gender roles, race, and class are involved from the presenting of unexpected characteristics, plots, outcomes, detail from the children’s imagination from theirs made believe storyline (pg. 429).
In her article, she worked with the teacher and students from a fourth and fifth grade classroom who ages range approximately from 9 years old to 11 years old at Charles Street Public School (pg.428). Elizabeth choose Charles Street Public School because Charles School is an urban Canadian school with a diverse population consisting of national and ethnic origin, and socio-economic situation (pg.428). She stay in their class for a six month period, reading a variable of fairy tales ranging from The Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf, two of the best known European fairy tales, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, The Princess and the Goblin, Willow, The Little Mermaid, Pocahantas and Mulan to the classroom. In her research, she was surprised to found out that if through she didn’t specifically asked the children to focus on gender, the discussion that she have with the children encourage them to reflect on the range of discourses available to them about what it means to be male or female. For example, in her article, when she asked the students to rewrite a fairy tales from their experience, a girl name Samantha wrote about a story called “ Something Different” talking about this beautiful princess named Caroline was kidnapped, but was very intelligent to save herself and her knight Henry, who was very stupid, from the dragon and live happily after as his tutors. There were also two other stories that were rewritten from the story Cinderella and The Little Red Riding Hood.
Elizabeth analysis from those three stories that these children wrote their stories expressing that in fairy tales it doesn’t always have to be in the mode where the male are the dominant one and helping the princess. That it could be the other way around where the princess is the strong one saving the prince. Or in Bart story about the Red Riding Hood, where she invents a Red Riding Hood who is more than able to look after herself without any help from armed woodsmen. Elizabeth think that both stories are also clearly disruptive and can be placed within shifting discourses of what it means to be a woman (pg. 433). She think these stories can be seen as part of a changing narrative theme where such resolutions are possible, where women do defend themselves and live interesting lives without marrying princes (pg. 433).
In her article, she talks about how she saw other children-using race with gender during their discussion. After reading the stories, Cinderella, The Talking Eggs, and Munro’s Beautiful Daughters, where the last two stories was the same version as Cinderella, but from different place like Louisiana and West Africa. She asked those students to draw what they would imagine the girl in the stories to look like, without looking at the real pictures. Elizabeth saw that mostly of the children drew white characters, no matter what color they were themselves. When she show them the picture of the black girl as the main character, those children was shocked and explaining their reasons for drawing a white character. She also found out that a lot those children who are different race draw their character white, with the assumption that white or blonde equal goodness, where black equal evil.
Reading Elizabeth’s article was interesting because her article shows her reader, even me, a different perspective of gender roles for children. I agree with her about how she think these stories can be seen as part of a changing narrative theme where such resolutions are possible, where women do defend themselves and live interesting lives without marrying princes (pg. 433). She is implying that girls being tough and strong are acceptable, and boys don’t have to always be the powerful. However, I think that her main point in this article was that children also already learned about what the society expected of them on their gender roles. However, these children are using that knowledge to consider what gender characteristics they want to express about themselves from their imagination to the outer world from their experience. For example, in the article, the girl, Samantha who fully aware that her story did not conform to the usual standards of accepted narratives, that she was challenging the status quo when she wrote her story, ‘ Something Different’ but she still wrote it anyway because she wanted to see a change in the gender roles (pg. 431).
It was amazing how Elizabeth point out that as those children talks about gender roles, they are also using race unconsciously by drawing a white character for the main girl in those three stories. I found it understandable that maybe those children don’t understand about how is it that they are being racism. Or maybe it is might be that those children do know that by drawing the character white with blonde hair that they are being racism, but doesn’t want to admit it. For example, there was other girls who wasn’t white, drawing the character white and when they were ask, they just answer it be saying that white is about being good. It is like they don’t want to admit it incase other will think bad of them.

here is the link where I found some information about Elizabeth Yeoman:

Sorry that I couldn't get the website of the article, but you can find it at U of M library Website.

Posted by chan0719 at August 2, 2005 11:16 PM